Archive for Sunday, November 30, 2003

Kansas Nutcracker’ to perform on 8 dates

November 30, 2003


If Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the "Nutcracker Ballet" composer, could see the Lawrence Arts Center remake his ballet into "Kansas Nutcracker," he might be a little confused.

For starters, Tchaikovsky's version takes place in 1850s Russia, while the center sets its production in 1850s Lawrence.

But Ric Averill, director of "Kansas Nutcracker," said his audience would feel right at home with Lawrence's version of the Russian ballet on eight dates in December at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

"It's just a beautiful Christmas card to Lawrence," Averill said.

As director and Mouse King in this year's production, Averill understood why Lawrence residents would appreciate the play's Kansas twist.

For the second holiday season, the Lawrence Arts Center performs the "Kansas Nutcracker," a local history review mixed with Tchaikovsky's classic holiday tale. More than 130 professional, community and student actors and dancers collaborate to perform in the "Kansas Nutcracker." Averill and artistic director Deborah Bettinger replace many of the original play's dream sequences with historical Kansas events during the play's setting.

Bettinger, also choreographer and creator of the play, thought the Kansas aspects of the ballet, such as John Brown and American Indians, added another dimension to the script.

"As the storyline, the Kansas aspect adds a different color to it," Bettinger said. "It's nice for people to have a storyline to follow."

Averill agreed that the topic and timing could not be any better for the production.

"The show is a wonderful little history lesson, especially since we are coming up on the sesquicentennial," Averill said.

In addition to the Kansas scenes, the two directors thought the music should reflect the setting, too. A mandolin orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky's music for the ballet.

Bettinger dreamed up her local version of the Nutcracker after reading a James Smiley book written about Lawrence.

"I thought it (Smiley's book) was so neat, so when I was looking for a Nutcracker with a twist," Bettinger said, "I thought of that book and it kind of fermented that idea."

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

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